PHIPPSBURG

Volunteers in Phippsburg are working hard to raise money to cover the legal fees of an appeal of the Department of Environmental Protection’s decision to allow the pilings at Popham Beach to be removed.

The Department of Environmental Protection granted a permit to Jackson Parker to remove the dilapidated pilings, which sit in the ocean near his Phippsburg property, in the summer. Parker — CEO of construction firm Reed & Reed — has stated multiple times that his efforts to remove the pilings stem from concerns that they are contributing to erosion of the beach.

At the last minute, the town of Phippsburg filed an appeal of the decision, listing the town, Ethan Debery and Rafael and Victoria Villamil as appellants. The appeal raises a number of issues, including the historic and aesthetic qualities of the pilings, environmental concerns and questions of property rights.

Phippsburg selectmen, however, have expressed reluctance to spend town money on the appeal. Instead, volunteers Barbara Keltonic and Dot Kelly have been working to raise donations to cover the legal costs of the effort. A hearing before the Board of Environmental Protection to consider the appeal has been set for 9 a.m. on Dec. 7 in Augusta.

“We’re trying to raise money,” said Keltonic. “There’s a legal counsel who is sort of attached to the town of Phippsburg … when they have need of an attorney, she’s the one. So, per the selectmen’s wishes, she will be representing the appellants and the town can’t pay for it.

“There’s nothing in the town budget that would apply to this,” she added. “So that’s why it’s really fallen to the residents to come up with the cash.”

Phippsburg Town Administrator Amber Jones has been collecting the donations.

“Donations have been coming in,” she said. “We’ve been asking for them to help pay for the cost of the appeal.”

Jones said that they’ve been able to raise around $5,000 so far toward the appeal.

“We’re still taking money, because we just don’t know how much it is going to cost,” said Jones, who noted that additional money will go toward reimbursing the town’s legal fund, which covered some of the early costs of the appeal.

Keltonic said that the appeal could cost anywhere between $5,000 and $7,500 by the end.

While there’s no formal group behind the appeal, volunteers have held a couple of organized meetings during the past year and have been active online. There is also a petition on Change.org signed by more than 600 people. Keltonic was working during the days leading up to Thanksgiving preparing letters asking for financial support.

“We’ve had a lot of donations, (but) many of them have been on the small side,” she said.

Keltonic said she’s motivated primarily by the aesthetic appeal of the pilings.

“I walk the beach — it’s my moving meditation that I do four times a week maybe — and every time I walk by them I say: How could anyone want to take them down?” she said

Keltonic encouraged Popham residents and interested parties to attend the hearing on Dec. 7.

“If we raise enough, we’d love to have a bus and let all the people ride up there together, because we do outnumber the other side,” she said. “That’s one thing that we have that can really show, that this is a grassroots (effort by) Phippsburg residents.”

If a bus is not a possibility, Keltonic said carpooling was a great option to bring a larger crowd to the hearing.



Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: